| Article Summary:
I have written countless articles about how to get fit, get big, get pumped up, get going, etc. What I am going to focus on this issue is how to be realistic with your goals by taking your body type into consideration.
What is a body "type" and why is it important? Your body type is basically your genetic predisposition. It not only determines your structural shape, but also dictates your ability to assimilate amino acids and utilize them to pack on muscle mass.
I really don't hear or read much about body types these days in magazines as supplement companies are too busy bull-sh!tting everyone into thinking that they can magically change their genetic makeup through a few supplemental additions.
You are either an ectomorph, a mesomorph, or an endomorph. In this article, I will share with you some of my own personal experiences to help you literally break out of your genetic mold so that you can sport the physique of your wildest desires.
Your Body Type
It is widely accepted that ectomorphs have a difficult time putting on mass and are physically weak and slim, which is why they are also known as "hard-gainers." If you find yourself frequently standing in front of the mirror while puffing up your chest and flexing your arms while your face turns beet red, then you are, by my account, an ectomorph.
By contrast, endomorphs are said to have the opposite problem. Although they gain muscle much more readily than ectomorphs, their setbacks include an inability to burn fat efficiently and the nickname "big-boned."
Every time I attend a powerlifting event, I feel like I am at the "Annual Endomorph Convention." There, I am surrounded by a bunch of "strong-as-f@*k" guys with beer bellies. It's such a strange sight. Last, but not least, are the mesomorphs. They're the lucky ones that can put on size with two meals, burn body fat just by thinking about, and were born with a nice set of abs.
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Which body-type am I? For a long time I thought that I was an ectomorph because I was Asian. Based on the fact that I have always been naturally very strong (225lb bench and 405lb squat at 15 years old) and was able to transform into a 220+ pound IFBB pro bodybuilder, I am a mesomorph.
When I was told by an NPC official from Texas that I was not genetically gifted enough to become a successful bodybuilder, I did not fret. I literally packed up and moved out to the "Mecca" of bodybuilding, Southern California. I was not going to let some redneck "@ss-backwards mofo" dissuade me from my goals. So I didn't, and the rest is history.
You don't have to be the fastest, or the strongest, or the most aesthetically pleasing to be a champion, but you must be willing to persevere to be better today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow.
Beating Your Genetics
Can ectomorphs and endomorphs be successful bodybuilders? Actually, this question has been answered many times over with past IFBB Olympia champion bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane. Make no mistake about it my friends, only you can overcome genetic obstacles, if you so choose.
While it is true that each body type responds differently to identical training stimuli, the notion that you cannot overcome your predisposed genetic makeup is absolute nonsense; I am a perfect example of that.
In 2002, I re-emerged upon the bodybuilding scene in southern California after a three year hiatus and won the USA Championships at a bodyweight of 147 lbs. By most accounts, I was described as a typical Asian bodybuilder with a genetic limitation; also known as an ectomorph.
I was told my back was not thick enough, my chest was not full enough, my triceps and biceps were unbalanced, the list goes on and on, yet I won. Even after being dubbed by a well-known writer (Larry Pepe) as being the most conditioned athlete present at that year's championships, all others wrote it off as a fluke of some sort, or that I probably wouldn't get any better.
Then four months later I showed up in Dallas, TX for the '02 NPC Nationals at a bodyweight of 176 lbs. Although I placed 11th, the fact that I was able to show up almost 30 pounds heavier than I did just a few short months prior was a marvel in itself.
The point here is that I was able to transform into a mesomorph. My example should tell you clearly that you can physically achieve anything that you want, but it will require a lot of time, dedication, and effort.
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My Example Should Tell You Clearly That You
Can Physically Achieve Anything That You Want.
For an aspiring bodybuilder, feeding "the machine" properly and regularly is just one half of the "domination equation." What exactly is this "domination equation"? It is essentially what everyone else that you are or will be competing against is willing to do, plus all of the other variables that they won't be.
Variables such as more reps, more time, more effort, in a nutshell, more intensity. So what if you can't lift as much weight as your counterpart. In the game of bodybuilding, it is all about creating the best shape and knowing how to pose to hide weaknesses and accentuate strengths.
You can do one of two things: b!tch and moan and get nowhere fast, or focus all of your energy and effort into sharpening your aesthetic details. Practice your posing with passion until every movement transitions smoothly into the next. Close your eyes and feel your muscle fibers contract with the beat of the music, while they relax between transitions of soft melody.
When I pose, I try to mimic the confidence and splendor of a ballet dancer, thus allowing my emotions to transition into my work of art. Passion is a variable that is universal to excellence in everything that we do. Ask a successful business entrepreneur about his keys to success and he will undoubtedly include passion as one of them.
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu was recently quoted as saying: "I'm passionate about being with my wife and family. I'm passionate about football. It's no different. If I were in the ballet I'd be passionate about that. It's not that football is a brutal game, it's the passion that drives me. And it is a contact sport."
I believe that everyone has their own unique set of variables, both good and bad. I also believe that it is in how and where we focus our passions that ultimately determines the end products of our journeys.
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I Believe That Everyone Has Their Own Unique
Set Of Variables, Both Good And Bad.
I am a Catholic, therefore I believe in free will. The idea that our destinies are predetermined conflicts with my view that life is dynamic. We have many decisions to make in our lifetime, thus we can surely induce a desired product.
More Than Winning
I recall being interviewed about what traits, aside from physical, set me apart from the field when I stepped out on stage. I remember talking about possessing a sense of purpose that sets my internal desire on fire to motivate me to do whatever it takes to not only win, but to dominate.
This strong internal desire for accomplishment is also known as passion or love. When you are passionate about something or in love with something, you are willing to talk about it, study it, and be about it all the time. When was the last time, if ever, that you felt this incredible compulsion to achievement?
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Winning is one thing, but being to be able to walk in and dominate at a level that obliterates the hopes and dreams of others is quite another. I know the aforementioned sounds selfish, but it is essential to success as there can only be one champion.
Through my torrid ride through amateur competition between 2002 and 2004, I saw domination as a way to make my class better. The middleweight class was a tough class, but was definitely not seen as a main attraction at bodybuilding shows, and I really wanted to change all that.
While everyone else was talking about bulking to become better, I focused on finding the balance between size, symmetry, and conditioning.
Competitors often times focus on one of these attributes instead of striving for excellence in all three. There are always one or two guys that stand out in a class with enough size and conditioning to leave the audience in awe.
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Then there is that one competitor that stands alone and possesses what I call the "Wow" factor, the balance of size, symmetry, and conditioning that demands undivided attention.
Achieving The "Wow" Factor
Now for the million-dollar question, can all genotypes, all body-types achieve the "Wow" factor? Unequivocally, absolutely yes. The trick is to take the variables that you have and balance them out.
Let me slow down a bit because I don't want to give off the impression that the process of balancing your personal equation is going to be an easy one. It can be tricky, but I can help you figure it out.
The first step is to accept your strengths along with your weaknesses. For me, I had to accept the fact that my body was easier to develop from the waist down. Heck, my "wheels" could grow just by running bleachers. From the waist up, it was a whole different tale, I was in all facets of the term a "hard-gainer."
So then, what did I do to balance out my equation? I'm an intellect by nature so I took a step back to reassess my training philosophy, and subsequently my nutritional and workout regimens.
I came to the conclusion that by not training my strengths as frequently (in my case quads, hams and calves), I would in essence be able to take their growing capacity or potential and apply it to my lagging areas.
Additionally, I took inventory of movements that stimulated growth versus shaping and tailored my training regimen to support my long-term goals.
Instead of hitting my quads every single time with heavy squats, I opted for movements such as walking lunges that served to stretch and shape my quads, glutes, and hamstrings versus building them. I would alternate between them weekly (never together) so as to allow my upper body time and potential to catch up.
That, my friends, is how I balanced out my equation and ultimately derived my championship formula.
Using Power Movements
How should each body type train to achieve the "Wow" factor? Hard-gainers (ectomorphs) should focus on hitting every single body part until exhaustion with power movements frequently. I have, with much success, utilized a "2-on-1-off, 2-on-2-off" weekly routine for many of my ectomorphic clients to force their bodies into optimal anabolic, muscle-building states.
If you go all out on squats and have nothing left to give for another exercise, then you are doing what it takes to override your genetics. Everything else is icing on your cake. Each body part should have one power movement that you go all out on. I call these movements "primary or core movements."
The power movements serve to overload and over-stimulate your muscle fibers so as to send the brain stimuli to rebuild and reinforce often. Movements that you can fit in after are what I like to call shaping exercises or "secondary movements."
As for cardio, ectomorphs should opt for less physically taxing cardiovascular activities such as stationary bike riding versus running or stair-climbing. The whole point of cardio is to burn fat and spare muscle, so don't overdo it.
Endomorphs should spend more time shaping with secondary movements and re-shaping with a strong emphasis on cardio, not on intensity, but on duration and frequency.
My suggestion is to focus on moderate weight and maintaining an optimal range of motion with movements. Slow on the negative (eccentric) and controlled and steady on the positive (concentric).
Emphasize squeezing and shaping your muscle bellies while not wasting your time worrying about repetitions. A traditional "4-on-1-off" training regimen would suffice, so be sure to spend ample time perfecting your mandatory poses.
A typical endomorphic metabolism is slow at best and will require more cardio work than other body types to achieve championship form. I hear a lot of endomorphs that proclaim how great they are because they are so huge. To them I say: "Anyone can be big and full of excuses, but there can be only one champion, and it's the one that offers nothing but blood, sweat, and tears."
Last but not least, mesomorphs should be careful to not over-emphasize or overtrain dominant body parts at the expense of lagging ones. Similarly to endomorphs, mesomorphs should at the very least be utilizing a "4-on-1-off" training routine, which essentially allows for two training sessions per body part, per week.
The Nutrition Side Of Things
Nutritionally, each body type will require some caloric variance to achieve optimal levels of lean body mass while at the same time provide energy for peak performance.
There are days when I look better on the outside than I feel on the inside, and vice-versa, and then there are those exceptional days when I look full and shredded and have a seemingly endless supply of energy.
As much as it is like finding the Holy Grail to be able to build muscle and get lean at the same time, it is equally difficult to replicate high energy levels for each and every workout session. It's usually one or the other and it sucks, but you have to "roll with the punches" and adjust accordingly.
On my high energy or peak days, I obviously go all out on each and every exercise, set, and repetition. Conversely, I focus on shaping my muscle bellies by slowing the movement down and/or utilizing less weight on days when I am lethargic and unmotivated.
Ectomorphs should try to "cheat-in" as many calories as possible, and the best time to do this is right before a workout and directly after when the body is in most need of these extra calories.
I truly believe that most ectomorphs do not achieve physical greatness because they simply fail to give their bodies enough fat to process protein with. Again, it is all about assessing strengths and weaknesses.
In the case of an ectomorph, a fast metabolism burns more calories at a faster clip than a mesomorph or and endomorph. Therefore, fat, even good fat that is typically oxidized to provide energy for protein synthesis, is being converted into water and heat.
This means ectomorphs will need to provide a stronger base of usable "good" fats (unsaturated) for effective and efficient protein synthesis and subsequent muscular growth.
| Protein Synthesis:
The process by which nitrogen from amino acids is linearly arranged into structural proteins through the involvement of RNA and various enzymes. Protein synthesis is muscle growth. The more efficient you can make this process the more efficiently you can build muscle.
EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids) are an excellent source of "good" fats, so stop spinning your wheels and go get some. Not only will you look better, but you will feel better as EFAs also play a role in maintenance of homeostasis or hormone balance.
Ectomorphs have a slight advantage over their counterparts in that they can typically ingest more unsaturated fats and get away with it as their furnace-like metabolisms can offset any significant difference.
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Endomorphs and mesomorphs can also benefit from EFAs, although their bodies are typically more efficient at maintaining optimal levels of necessary fats for protein synthesis.
This does not mean that they don't have to regulate their fat intake, they are confined to using only "good" fats in the form of flax seed and/or fish oil.
I am a strong proponent of BCAAs (up to 12 grams post-workout) and Glutamine (up to 10 grams post-workout). Why so much? The reason is simple. Building muscle is essentially about having a positive nitrogen balance at the end of the day.
BCAAs bypass the liver and can go directly via the bloodstream to the areas where they are needed for repair and recovery. No other amino acid has that capacity, so it makes perfect sense to add them in after an intense training session.
Even if you are not trying to bulk up, BCAAs can drastically decrease your recovery rate by giving your body the necessary building blocks to replace dead or old tissues with new and vibrant ones.
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Regardless of body type, everyone should assess strengths and weaknesses as a prerequisite to training regimen development. There are many examples of each body type that have achieved physical greatness.
For example, Gunter Schlierkamp is a well-known IFBB bodybuilding icon who possesses a typical endomorphic frame, an example of a well-achieved mesomorphic icon is actor Brad Pitt, and an example of an iconic ectomorph would be NBA great Lebron James.
Finding the right balance takes a bit of patience, know-how, and due diligence. We are all different in one way or another, and therefore we all have our own special and unique variables to deal with. What you will find in your quest for physical greatness as I have found in my journey is that in reinventing yourself, you learn to live better and ultimately happier.
The most important lesson that I have learned from my journey is that it never ends and that it started well before I ever knew it. Life is about adjusting and readjusting as bodybuilding and fitness is about inventing and reinventing. The moment we stop striving for physical excellence is the moment our bodies begin to deteriorate and die.
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Keep this in mind as you reassess your current training and/or nutritional plan: Life and all that it represents is dynamic and ever-changing; death, conversely is static and has no ability to change. I awaken everyday with expectations of providing the very best for myself, and expecting the very best from myself.